I need You, I want You, I choose You

As we are preparing to depart for our mid-year conference in Europe, my heart is heavy. We’ve never left Senegal before. We’ve never not seen our friends here. What’s it going to be like when we for certain leave in July?

Yesterday Katie and I met with a sweet friend, DiaDia. We have shared the message of hope and love with her numerous times before. But yesterday was different. I know that I am not guaranteed another day in Senegal let alone this world. The sense of urgency was there to tell DiaDia that Jesus is God, He died for our sins, He is the ultimate sacrifice and we must turn to Him in repentance and receive Him as our Savior and Lord to become children of God. My heart longs to see sweet DiaDia come to know the God of the universe.

My heart broke when she walked away still not having received Jesus as her savior. My heart broke when she cried because we were leaving for two weeks. My heart breaks knowing that in a few short months, I might be saying goodbye to DiaDia forever. I trust God with her, but my heart breaks that she is in bondage of self-works and striving for the acceptance of God when it is so freely given.

I am comforted by God’s immense love for me and all the people He is calling to himself. I am thankful that God has promised me an eternity with Him because of what Jesus did, not anything that I can do.

Please, continue praying for Senegal during this election period. Please be praying the Gospel would go forth and for our sweet friends like DiaDia to come to know the amazing grace He has lavished upon us.

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Chipping Away At The Polished Exterior

One thing I’m learning is how much I fall short. I’m not sure if this lesson is actually coming from ministry work or if it’s just coming as I’m getting a deeper and more full understanding of grace.

This whole week I’ve been putting all of my responsibilities on hold. I really can’t tell you the reasoning behind this. I know I need to continue support raising, finish my Doctrinal studies, and finish 4 books, but there has been a heavy exhaustion over me. I am learning that I ran the race well in some parts, but I’ve not finished well. I got caught up in what I thought I was capable of doing (not relying on God) and what I expected from others. When others weren’t meeting that expectation, I was getting bitter. Tonight there was a sin that God revealed to me, and I’d been fighting it for a few days. Without going into too much detail, it really was a heart issue that stemmed from a lack of trust in God and my own self-seeking pride.

I sat down tonight and picked up my Chris Tiegreen The One Year: At His Feet devotional and got hit in the face with some biblical truth. And as God is sovereign, it applied directly to my heart and my situation. It was over Mark 7:14-23:

Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.” 

After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable.  “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them?  For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)

He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them.  For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.  All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”

“They (Pharisees and religion) all attempt to reform the visible result of sin without treating the internal condition. Jesus is the only remedy that cleans a person from the inside out, if we will let Him.”- Tiegreen

My heart is the issue here. I’m pretty capable of living within the “American-Evangelical Christian boundaries.” The polished exterior isn’t the issue. It’s truly what’s on the inside that counts. I have this circular effect/flow model going on in my mind. What I do, or my will, affects my heart, but my heart determines my will. What I mean by that is if I choose to deliberately go against God’s will or promptings through the Holy Spirit, my heart begins to become calloused, hard, and cold. Before this act of disobedience, my heart was probably not in the right place and it was not aligned with God’s. My heart was more than likely focused on self gratification, praise, and satisfaction and self-worth in other things other than the Lord Himself which resulted in my actions of going against God. Therefore, then, my actions of sin pulls me further away form Jesus which affects my heart which snowballs into a big mess.

How much smaller and less devastating would it be for us (preaching to myself) for us to catch the snowball before it starts taking off of the top of the hill? Humbling myself before God in repentance and asking Him to not only forgive me but to continue to change me to be more like Christ is the answer.

“The problem many of us have faced (or continue to face) is that we can restrain our outward behavior while retaining all of the evil thoughts within us. What we’ve changed is our appearance, not our hearts… (The solution is) the habitation of Christ Himself in our hearts by faith, and our constant, conscious reliance on Him (and cooperation with Him) to change us from within.”- Tiegreen

I can’t imagine what we would all look like if we didn’t restrain what we were entertaining in our minds and hearts. I can’t even begin to tell you what a mess I’d be, let alone how many times I’d be married. (You girls know what I’m talking about!) If God looks at our hearts, what does it say about my heart that I am entertaining these resentful attitudes towards fellow believers and not repenting of it? How can I just not “act out” my attitude and claim to be well? I am still struggling with the flesh, therefore, I am not well and am in a constant state of needing God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness (Luke 5:31).

I’m learning more and more that when I see something critical/harsh come out of my mouth it is an overflow of what’s going on in my heart (Luke 6:45). That is a sign that I need to check my heart and see what’s going on in there. Also realizing that my desires are to reflect God and honor Him and if they aren’t, again, heart issue.

So, I’ll leave you readers with this song. It’s super sweet because it was the first worship song I ever learned, and it carries so many precious memories alongside of it. And here’s the last bit from Tiegreen. Sorry this is so long and messy. Again, I am human and in need of grace just as much as the next guy. I appreciate the grace you’re giving as you read this. Please be praying for my heart and my attitude.

“If this is your struggle-and you are not alone- resist the way of the flesh. Do not be content with covering the outward manifestation of an unclean heart. Invite Jesus to do an inward work, conforming your heart into His pure image-not just once, but constantly. Believe that He will, and see what happens.”- Tiegreen

Motivation to Check My Motives

I read a really great devotional (Yes, it was Tiegreen’s!) that addressed something I’d been struggling with all summer. I have a tendency to forget about building the kingdom of God. I get into this mode of either just doing things thoughtlessly or intentionally doing certain things to make me look better. This summer God really showed me that there is no room for me to be building my own kingdom. I am here solely to worship Him and build His kingdom. Psalm 16:2 says,

All a man’s ways are innocent to him, but motives are weighted by the LORD.

I am trying to really weigh what my motives are behind the things I do. Keeping in this in check is such a hard thing for me. Hopefully, I can continue to do things for the glory of the LORD and not to be building my own kingdom. I feel like doing this parallels dying to self. If I’m not daily dying to myself then my selfish ambitions are going to come through. I’m sinful. I’m fallen, but He restores my soul for His name’s sake. Not mine.